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Court Clears Way for Wrongful Death Cases Against West Virginia Nursing Homes

Patients in nursing homes in West Virginia (WV) will find it easier to launch wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits following a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

In a unanimous opinion, the court wrote that nursing homes shouldn't be able to insert fine print into contracts to avoid getting taken to court if they are accused of harming residents, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

Nursing homes in West Virginia were making residents sign contracts that included binding arbitration clauses that the court determined were "buried within nursing home admission agreements." The clauses stated that if patients become injured or otherwise harmed, they or their families would take their case before arbitrators -- in effect, private judges.

"Because the decision of the private judge is binding, the families can't appeal adverse outcomes to courts," the newspaper reported.

This process came under fire with critics claiming these arbitrators were beholden to the companies that gave them their business, in other words the nursing homes. The judges agreed with the critics, saying they did not like the use of a binding arbitration system.

"The process of signing paperwork for medical care - specifically a contract for admission to a nursing home -- is often fraught with urgency, confusion and stress," the court ruled. "People seek medical care in a nursing home for long-term treatment to heal; they rarely view the admission process as an interstate commercial transaction with far-reaching legal consequences."

As experienced Virginia (VA) medical malpractice attorneys, we welcome the results of this judgment because we were also concerned about the arbitration process and the level of protection it offered patients.

A look at some of the cases our medical negligence lawyers have reported on in states including Virginia (VA), North Carolina, (NC) and West Virginia (WV), points to the high level of problems faced by patients in some nursing homes and their need to be protected.
These include medication errors, and nursing home abuse, that included one Virginia Beach home appearing in a list of the three worst homes in Virginia in 2008.

In West Virginia, it seems nursing homes have a real need for the protection of independent courts rather than arbitrators. A five-star rating system for West Virginia's 130 nursing homes and adult care facilities that was implemented in 2009, found the majority of West Virginia's adult homes were below average.

In May 2011, we highlighted a wrongful death nursing home lawsuit in West Virginia. Angela Black is suing HCR Manorcare claiming that one of its residents, Arcel Rose, was mistreated. She said this poor treatment included bed sores, malnutrition, dehydration, and infections.

Complications such as bed sores can be extremely painful and degrading, but patients have rights. Earlier this year a jury awarded a patient $10.3 million over the bed sores that developed from neglect at a medical center. Our expert medical malpractice attorneys are ideally placed to fight for patients' rights in these cases.


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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